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WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says she sees the impact of climate change at just about every national park she visits.

"In Historic Jamestowne, we've actually had 98 feet of coastline wash away, including half of what was a Civil War fort and some very critical Native American artifacts that have been there probably for 10,000 years," Jewell says. "Glaciers melting in Glacier National Park; Joshua trees dying in Joshua Tree National Park — and all these things are tied in to a changing climate."

As the Fourth of July holiday approaches — when many Americans head outdoors to camp, hike and barbecue — Jewell cites two 21st-century challenges for the national park system she oversees. One is to engage a younger generation that may be more interested in the digital world than the natural one. The other is to respond to the changing landscape caused by climate change.

"We're going to have to triage," she said Monday on Capital Download. "We're going to have to say, what is climate change likely to do and can we save these historic resources, these cultural resources, these landscapes? Or do we have to put our money, which is limited, into places that are less likely to be impacted?

"These are really difficult decisions, because the mission of the National Park Service is to leave these national treasures unimpaired for future generations, and yet with climate change we're having to make some hard choices."

Jewell, 58, spoke to USA TODAY's weekly video newsmaker series in her sprawling office, its balcony offering a panoramic view of the Congress, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Last year, she took over the department that oversees public lands, national parks and Indian affairs without much of a background in politics. A former petroleum engineer and CEO of REI, the outdoor gear company, she says she has gotten an education in how Washington works, and doesn't.

"We're in the forever business; our charge in national parks is to preserve them unimpaired for future generations," she says. "But we are funded lurching from continuing resolution to continuing resolution." That is different from the business world she left, she says.

"People accuse businesses of having a short-term mentality, but I'll tell you, businesses do strategic planning, and they think forward," something she says is "very difficult" to do in Washington. Another contrast: "In the private sector, you're rewarded for taking risks. In the public sector, you take risks and you're wrong, and people will hammer you. So it makes you very risk-averse."

She expresses little patience with those who argue the climate isn't changing or debate whether humans are causing the change.

"I would say that the science is clear," she says. "But whether or not you choose to think about the causes of climate change, all you have to do is open your eyes and look around you to see that climate change is real. So we can no longer pretend it's going to go away. We have to adapt and deal with it."

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